By Scott Kindberg
Earlier this fall, a highly respected and successful area high school football coach told me that the 2013 edition of the Randolph Cardinals was the best he'd ever seen.
Six members of the Morrison family — brothers Brennan (1992-95) Ike (1994-97), Brooks (2004-05), Blake (2005-2007), Brady (2009-2011) and Bryce (2012-present) — have played varsity football at Randolph Central School. More specifically, a Morrison brother has played on every one of the Cardinals’ state title teams (2005, 2009 and 2012) and received a ring to prove it. Brooks and Blake played together on the 2005 state championship squad; Brady was a member of the 2009 title team; and Bryce played on the 2012 state champs. Bryce will try to make it two Class D titles in a row today when Randolph meets Chester at noon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. For the record, Branson Morrison will likely be following in his brothers’ footsteps, but he’ll have to wait a few years. He’s only in sixth grade.
That was pretty high praise considering the season had yet to start.
Fast-forward three months.
At noon today the top-ranked Cardinals (12-0) will meet Chester of Section 9 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship on the line. Should Randolph win, it will be the fourth state title in school history, all since 2005.
Then the question begs: Are the Cardinals a dynasty? It's hard to argue that point. In their three previous trips to Syracuse, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 104-13.
Below is a look back, from The Post-Journal archives, at how Randolph has dominated the Dome through the years.
See RANDOLPH, Page C3
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP NO. 1
NOV. 25, 2005
SYRACUSE - Doug Luke has been in four New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship games since 1999, so the Cambridge coach has seen some of the best teams that the Empire State has had to offer.
None, he says, are better than the Randolph Cardinals.
Oh, sure, there may have been better individual talent running around the Carrier Dome artificial surface the last seven years - Mike Hart, now the starting tailback for the University of Michigan, comes to mind, as does Jehuu Caulcrick, who is now at Michigan State - but in Luke's eyes the best squad he's line up against hails from Cattaraugus County.
''We've played against Onondaga and they had Hart and he's the best I've ever seen,'' Luke said, "but, as a team, Randolph was as good as I've seen in the four times we've been here.''
Few could argue that assessment after watching the Cardinals' performance Saturday in the Class D championship game.
Senior fullback Jeff Durow, the game's Most Valuable Player, rushed for three touchdowns; senior quarterback Trae Rogers connected with Blake Morrison on a pair of touchdown passes; and the defense did the rest as top-ranked Randolph (13-0) steamrolled the second-ranked Indians (11-2), 35-6.
The victory capped a memorable season for the Cardinals, who began the year picked to finish fifth in their division, but ended up as only the third area school to return home with a state football title, joining Jamestown (1994, 1995, 2000) and Maple Grove (1998).
''We're pretty good,'' Randolph coach Pat Slater said. ''I think you've seen a true team from this group here. We don't have a real star. This is a team right from the get-go. Each of these kids depends on the other one. Of all the teams I've ever (had), I think this one epitomizes the word 'team.'''
Added Durow, who rushed for 123 yards on 25 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 2, 1 and 15 yards: "We're a bunch of average guys. There are no superstars, no outstanding players. Everybody is one. That's how you win a state championship.''
And try as they might, the Indians hardly posed a threat, as the Cardinals dominated in every facet of the game from the opening kickoff.
Offensively, the line blew open holes for Durow and junior Nick Jackson, who ran for 125 yards on 20 carries; and Rogers' only two passing attempts resulted in touchdowns of 23 and 25 yards to Morrison.
Defensively, Randolph sacked highly regarded quarterback Spencer Luke four times; yielded only 132 total yards; and pounded Cambridge on virtually every play.
''They overpowered us,'' Doug Luke said.
- Scott Kindberg
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP NO. 2
NOV. 28, 2009
SYRACUSE - The Randolph Cardinals put themselves on the New York State Public High School Athletic Association map in 2005.
Four years later, they rule Class D football again.
Six different players scored touchdowns - one, believe it or not, on a pass - and the top-ranked Cardinals breezed to a 41-0 victory over Moriah on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome on the campus of Syracuse University.
''It's just fabulous,'' said Randolph coach Pat Slater, ''just amazing. You think how difficult it was the first time and when you're all done and you go back and realize, 'You know, the chances of that occurring again are minute.' And then when these kids step up and all of a sudden you get close and you get close and you say, 'My God, we might do it.'''
They sure did.
Senior quarterback Mike Maycock, the game's most valuable player, passed for a touchdown and ran for another; senior running back Matt Hettenbaugh rushed for 111 yards and a score; and sidekick Alan Lockwood, another senior, added 92 yards on the ground, including a highlight-reel 54-yard TD jaunt. Tack on a 2-yard plunge by senior Matt Lundsten and an 8-yard burst by senior Travis Terry and Randolph left the Dome having put on another clinic.
Defensively, the Cardinals yielded just 121 yards, highlighted by Hettenbaugh's 10 tackles.
''Our defense is outstanding,'' said Slater, who claimed his 188th career victory. ''Coach (Brent) Brown does such a good job with the kids. He puts in the time and you can't believe the hours and the preparation they do. We spend a lot of time on that and it shows.''
Slater also said that Randolph does spend time on the passing game, but he hasn't had to use it much this season. In fact, Maycock's last pass came about a month ago, but against the Vikings he threw three times and completed all three, including a 39-yarder to Ryan Beach to set up Maycock's 4-yard keeper for a TD with 44 seconds remaining in the first half. That drive was set up when Randolph stopped Moriah on a fourth and two at the Cardinals' 45.
After trading turnovers - Moriah fumbled twice and Randolph once in a wild few plays- the Cardinals took over just inside midfield and Maycock capped the drive when he hit senior Eric Bruder with a 15-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left before halftime.
Three passes in one half, Pat?
''Well, the time was right,'' Slater said. ''We had a lot of field to cover and we hadn't thrown the ball up in a while. It was time to let them fly. We practice it all the time. I never said we couldn't throw. I said we choose not to throw. It was time to throw.''
Armed with a 27-0 lead, Randolph had more than enough points to secure its second state title. Jamestown is tops among area schools with three, while Southwestern and Maple Grove have two apiece.
Hettenbaugh and Terry scored rushing TDs in the second half to close out the scoring and an unbelievable season for the Cattaraugus County school.
- Scott Kindberg
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP NO. 3
NOVEMBER 22, 2012
SYRACUSE - When Cody Oldro dozed off in the Randolph Cardinals' Syracuse-area hotel on Thanksgiving night, all he dreamt about was the Carrier Dome and what would take place on the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's biggest stage Friday afternoon.
"All I saw in my sleep,'' said the junior linebacker/guard, " ... was where I would be, what would happen and where I would go.''
Let's just say dreams do come true.
Behind two touchdowns from senior Jordan Dowiasz and a strong defensive effort - led by Oldro, the game's most valuable player - the top-ranked Cardinals dispatched of Section 1's Tuckahoe, 28-7, to claim their third state Class D championship in eight seasons and send their beloved coach, Pat Slater, into retirement with NYSPHSAA football's biggest prize.
"That's the best way to go (out),'' said Slater, who winds up his 34-year career with 213 victories. "Every time we won, every week the last four weeks, I realized it's getting closer, it's getting closer.
''This is the best. The kids are the best. They played hard."
That's been the theme for the teenagers from Cattaraugus County for the last 10 weeks. For after losing two of their first three games, the Cardinals were looking at a daunting task, even for one of the state's best programs. But the young team started putting it together in a Week Three loss at Maple Grove; Slater and his staff made some personnel changes; and Randolph proceeded to rip off 10 straight wins, capped by yesterday's convincing victory over Tuckahoe (8-3-1).
"We talked in the locker room that we had to come out and play our game,'' said Dowiasz, who finished with 145 yards on 18 carries, including touchdown runs of 43 and 2 yards, and intercepted a pass. "Just hit them hard, run hard, get on our blocks, be disciplined and come out and play a great game."
In addition to Dowiasz's two scores, junior Chris Doubek, who was named the most valuable offensive back, added 101 yards on 12 carries and scored the game's first touchdown on a 39-yard run; and junior Jared Pitchford tallied a fourth-quarter TD on a 6-yard burst. Junior Micah Kehoe booted two extra points and junior quarterback Mitchell Maycock had a two-point conversion run.
That was more than enough offense as the Cardinals, who outgained the Tigers, 352-195, turned in another stellar defensive effort.
- Scott Kindberg